The Recreational Fishing Alliance (RFA) is pleased to report that the National Marine Fisheries Service (NOAA Fisheries) has decided not to issue Exempted Fishing Permits (EFPs) at this time that would allow pelagic longlining in areas currently closed to this gear.
On March 31, 2005, NOAA Fisheries released a Final Environmental Assessment proposing to issue EFPs to conduct scientific research experiments using pelagic longline gear in areas of the Gulf of Mexico, Florida East Coast, South Atlantic Bight, Mid-Atlantic Bight and Northeast Coastal Atlantic currently closed to longlining.
The RFA mobilized quickly and spent several days in Washington to bring a clear message directly to leaders on Capitol Hill and within NOAA Fisheries: Areas currently closed to longlining must stay closed to longlining.
“The evidence is clear that pelagic drift longlines in U.S. waters are a problem,” said Jim Donofrio, RFA Executive Director. “The gear is responsible for too much bycatch; whether its juvenile swordfish, bluefin tuna, blue marlin, white marlin, sailfish or sea turtles. Re-opening areas currently closed to longlining is not the answer to this problem.”
A statement released by NOAA Fisheries on May 3, 2005, says the agency “has decided not to proceed with issuing exempted fishing permits until such time as an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) is prepared to further assess the impacts associated with fishing in existing pelagic longline closed areas.”
“Past Biological Opinions, Environmental Impact Statements, public comments, rulemakings and judicial decisions clearly support the need for the current closures,” said Mr. Donofrio. “And we’ll continue to make that case.”
“Saltwater anglers throughout the country, particularly in Florida, were outraged that these areas could be re-opened to longlining,” said Mike Leech, IGFA Ambassador at Large and member of the RFA Board of Directors. “Hundreds of anglers weighed in on this issue and it’s important that we continue to do everything we can to keep longlines out of these waters.”